The Design Sprint
The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.
Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, you’ll get clear data from a realistic prototype. The sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.
This page is a DIY guide for running your own sprint. On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a high-fidelity prototype. And onFriday, you’ll test it with real live humans.
Sprints are versatile
At GV, we’ve run sprints with companies like Nest, Flatiron Health, and Medium—to help them enter new markets, design new products, develop new features for millions of users, define marketing strategies, and much more. Teams around the world have adopted sprints, and we‘re collecting their stories at SprintStories.com.
Set the Stage
Before the sprint begins, you’ll need to have the right challenge and the right team. You’ll also need time and space to conduct your sprint.
- Set the Stage video with Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky YouTube
- Checklist for Set the Stage GV Library
- Your design team needs a war room; here’s how to set one up Fast Company
- Shopping list for sprint supplies Kit.com
- The GV research sprint GV Library
Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week. In the morning, you’ll start at the end and agree to a long-term goal. Next, you’ll make a map of the challenge. In the afternoon, you’ll ask the experts at your company to share what they know. Finally, you’ll pick atarget: an ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.
After a full day of understanding the problem and choosing a target for your sprint, on Tuesday, you get to focus on solutions. The day starts with inspiration: a review of existing ideas to remix and improve. Then, in the afternoon, each person will sketch, following a four-step process that emphasizes critical thinking over artistry. You’ll also begin planning Friday’s customer test by recruiting customers that fit your target profile.
By Wednesday morning, you and your team will have a stack of solutions. That’s great, but it’s also a problem. You can’t prototype and test them all—you need one solid plan. In the morning, you’ll critique each solution, and decide which ones have the best chance of achieving your long-term goal. Then, in the afternoon, you’ll take the winning scenes from your sketches and weave them into a storyboard: a step-by-step plan for your prototype.
On Wednesday, you and your team created a storyboard. On Thursday, you’ll adopt a “fake it”philosophy to turn that storyboard into a prototype. A realistic façade is all you need to test with customers, and here’s the best part: by focusing on the customer-facing surface of your product or service, you can finish your prototype in just one day. On Thursday, you’ll also make sure everything is ready for Friday’s test by confirming the schedule, reviewing the prototype, and writing an interview script.
- Thursday video with Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky YouTube
- Checklist for Thursday GV Library
- Finalize test schedule and complete interview guide GV Library
Your sprint began with a big challenge, an excellent team—and not much else. By Friday, you’ve created promising solutions, chosen the best, and built a realistic prototype. That alone would make for an impressively productive week. But you’ll take it one step further as you interviewcustomers and learn by watching them react to your prototype. This test makes the entire sprint worthwhile: At the end of the day, you’ll know how far you have to go, and you’ll know just what to do next.